Sunday, 30 March 2014

A Week in the Dark

We have just celebrated a week of dark-time activities.   No, not handcuffs and bedroom antics!  I'm talking Eco-Stuff under the stars!  It was Mike's birthday on Wednesday, so we celebrated by going to Waihi for a meal at an Indian restaurant - gorgeous decor!  The funny thing was that I had made Mike a card, and as is our tradition, a poem.  The poem was a dedication to My Taj Mahal, aka Mike.  The restaurant had a giant framed picture of the Taj Mahal!  What a great co-incidence!  We'd never been there before!

On the way to the restaurant, we discovered a community garden in a vacant lot in Waihi. Great to think of all these collective community-spirited growing projects!  After dinner, we drove to Te Aroha, a good 40 mins away, to take part in a walk up Mount Aroha to see the glow-worms from 8-9pm.  Or Titiwai, in Maori.  It was a freezing cold night and we were rugged up for the night-time chill.  Despite my huffing and puffing, fit to blow down a house made of sticks and straw, I made it up the track to view the titiwai.  There was a quaint little shrine in the bush, origin unknown, with a tap and small pool.  Apparently, honeymooners make the pilgrimage to dip their rings in the water for good luck.  At times, one becomes a little disorientated in the dark, looking up, one sees pin pricks of star light, and then looking down, the bush is filled with pinpoints of light, not unlike the stars in the night skies!  
Waihi Community Food Garden
Vacant lot with community garden installation in Waihi (and a new meaning to taking a Selfie)
Earth Hour is an international event, to raise awareness of Climate Change.  So we organised ours in the Kati KaiWay reserve last night (Saturday 29 March), between 8.30 -9.30 pm.  Earth Hour encourages people to turn off their lights, their televisions and laptops, and head to a designated meeting point.  The reduction of power worldwide is quite substantial.  Last year, we had about 20 adults and 15 children attend our event.  This year we doubled that, and then some, with about 60 adults and 25 children.  We have a hamper of donated organic goods from Ceres Enterprises, which we are raffling off, with the proceeds going to impoverished communities or projects coping with Climate Change issues.  I think we may choose the Lampadusa Turtle Project as this is a cause near and dear to our hearts at kindergarten. 
The Wednesday Birthday guy surveying Earth Hour activities
Our entertainment included the Ukati's, a ukulele band to croon the crowd under the stars.  The Kati KaiWay (pronounced Kie, like pie and meaning food in Maori) has a amphitheater-like bowl to increase the acoustics naturally.

Rex, Henk and Cushla
We also had a duo of Fire Poi dancers, Kal and her 10 yr old son, Cyrus.  Their upbeat music and great dance performance added a very risque, exotic accent to the night.  Cyrus has been doing fire poi since he was 6, he proudly told me, and dancing in the KaiWay under the stars, in front of an audience was a "dream come true" for him. 

Kal doing her saxy fire thang.

Mum and son wowing the crowds.

Fire-dancing captured on film creates a wonderful patina of light

Cyrus and Kal weaving a little light magic
Mmmn, we certainly have begun a hectic and eventful social life for ourselves.  There has been little time to feel how empty our nest is, after our daughter left home in March.  Methinks we'd better start planning some tropical holiday for a mid-winter break.......right, hand me that South Pacific Breaks brochure................

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Lacto-ferments, Germans and Garden Tours

Hoo Boy!  Just went to a great little workshop last weekend on lacto-fermenting fruit and veggies with Jen Mead.  What a great morning we had, listening to the thunderous rainfall as we stood chopping veggies in the little lean-to annex to her kitchen.  We learned how to make kimchi (Korean spicey fermented cabbage dish), Saurkraut (fermented cabbage), plum topping, garlic-carrot sticks and fruit fizz (fizzy fermented fruit drink).  Took home  a basket full of goodies.  What a wonderful way to spend the morning, with like-minded folk who were all as excited as me to learn a new art of preserving.

A medley of veggies for making kimchi

Tools of the trade: My trusty cleaver makes chopping a breeze
So coming home on that rainy, blustery day, I decided that the best way to spend the rest of the day, was to preserve.  So I set about on a gigantic chopping, blending, bottling journey that involved yet another bottle of saurkraut, kimchi, 5 bottles of feijoa fizz, 2 bottles of peach fizz and 3 bottles of fermented beans.  That night, I was sitting at the table and could hear a regular tick, tick, tick - so I got up to check my kitchen clock, suspecting the batteries needed changing.  Nope.  I glanced at the tap - not dripping.  I walked around trying to discover what little insect had crawled in and was trying to echo-locate his mates - nothing.  Then as I passed my rows of bottled ferments, I became aware of one of them ticking!!  I released the gas from one of the bottles with a convex lid, praying that they wouldn't explode while we were asleep that night!

The next night, I was again sitting down to check emails when a little squeal sounded out.  I stopped and waited...... another squeal.  High pitched.  Evenly spaced.  I called out to the cat, but she was clearly curled up and asleep.  I waited a while longer.... squeal...I yelled upstairs to Mike -"What are you doing up there?"  He answered, "Nothing!"  So on a hunch, I got up and went over to the row of bottles - yep, one of them was squealing!  It is the oddest thing I have ever encountered.  You let these bottles of fruit and veg ferment for 3-5 days, so for the past week, I have heard a variety of different "ferment sounds".  Am glad to be able to refrigerate them now in the sound-proofed tomb of the fridge.  No more odd noises in the night.

My ferments from the workshop: from left: Garlic-carrot sticks,
Kimchi, Saurkraut and plum topping.  Stones are used to weight the kimchi and saurkraut down.
Heading off to the beach the next day, we were greeted by this wonderful ephemeral artwork.  A great big corral of sorts.  It was very symmetrical, so I imagine that the children were set to collecting the driftwood while the adult built the structure.  Beaches are wonderful places to create a temporary artwork for others to admire, it is called transient or ephemeral art.  The waves will eventually wash the art away, which makes it  all the more precious and a very eco-sustainable art form.

Imagining it was built as a giant deck-chair for sunning oneself.
And on the Garden front, we opened up our home for the EnviroHub's Sustainable Backyards Events on 8 March.  I put up a sign at the entrance: "Warning:  You are Not entering a Weed-Free Zone."  Just in case they thought it was going to be a model of perfectionism.  March is a strange time to open up your garden and home, as it is the end of summer growth, so the garden is looking it's most tired.  Veggies are straggly, dry and at the end of their life.  Would be great to have Sustainable Backyards on mid-Feb. Anyway, I do feel a responsibility to share.  If our lifestyle can inspire someone to just try one or two earth-friendly practices, then I feel that it is worth it.  If Joe Polaischer and Trish Allen had not opened up their wonderful Rainbow Valley Farm to us 15 years ago, we would never have been inspired to start our very own journey toward a Sustainable Lifestyle.

Table of ideas
We did not know if we would have 6 or even 0 visitors, so we set about putting up signs to direct them toward the house, and a table of simple ideas to kick-start the journey.  We were run off our feet conducting tours around the garden and explaining how our solar panels work for the 2 hours of the open garden and home, with 14 visitors coming from Papamoa, Tauranga, Katikati and the Mount!  I was amazed that people would drive 30-40 mins to view our place, as we were the only open home in Katikati!  There was even someone I knew from my kindy connection, who did not know she was coming to view my place!  Small world!

Soapnuts for laundry

Home-crafted personal care products

Chamomile, horse-tail, geranium and mint tea blend.


Greencane toilet paper

Garden ties

 Re-purposed waste materials

Wood basket liner made from recycled coffee pouches
Guest book for Sustainable Backyards Open Home and Garden

Solar Tracker tells us how much energy we generate daily

Pear and apple harvest
On the Social Front, despite being described by our son as social pariahs, (I had to look that one up in the dictionery), we have had quite a social 2 weeks.  We had 2 sets of our old German Helpxchangers coming back to visit us!  On the same day!  First Amelie and Daniel arrived on their way up to Auckland.  It was lovely to reconnect.  They were a little more tanned and relaxed.  Amelie came to us with Irritable Bowl syndrome, and a simple suggestion of Mike's to soak a teaspoon of chia seeds overnight and drink them in the morning has had a wonderful impact on her health.  It is wonderful to know that you can help others with simple solutions to their seemingly complex and overwhelming problems.  And of course, it was great to reconnect with "old friends" again.

Amelie and Daniel
No sooner had Daniel and Amelie left,when a camper van of 3 burly Germans arrived!  Ex-helpxchanger, Seb brought his friends Kevin and Sebastian to visit.  They stayed overnight and we fed them dinner that evening, breakfast the next day and lunch.  But I made use of Good German Muscle by setting them to task before lunch.  Each one carted 3 loads of mulch to cover our pathways.  What good is it to have 3 fit young Germans in your house if you can't tap into that German Know-How-Can-Do Muscle Energy?!!
Seb made us laugh, when he told us he left after 2 weeks with us, and ordered some of our "GreeNZ" toys online, namely a Zen Chi machine, a back massager, Don Tolman's books and a Nikken PiMag Vortex machine!  They will be awaiting his return to Germany!!
Kevin, Seb and Sebastian!
We currently have a 21yr old Frenchman staying for a week.  He is a personal gym trainer in France, built like Dolf Lundgren, the actor.  So he too, has been put to good use, carting and distributing mulch around the garden as we clear the jungle-high weeds.  Sweet!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Packing Guide for Uni

Spreading wings.... the morning of the Big Day.
 Nearly 3 weeks ago we took our daughter to university.  The uni is about an hour and a half away, so we dropped her off, helped her unpack in the frenzy of first day settling in.  Masses of parents and fledgling adults milling around, shrills, shrieks and smiles all around.  Some looking wary or tearful but mostly all buzzing with a  sense of excitement.

I was transported back to my first day of Teacher's College - a lot less energy flying in all directions as ours was a single sex college.  Girls only.  My daughter is attending a co-ed residential establishment - a healthy blend of boys and girls.  Hence the energised live-wire frenetic excitement buzzing around on Move In Day.
Our daughter's new home for 2014
She was excited to go, but closer to the time, a little nervous.  Don't worry, we said, it's natural.  I had planned on being a bit sad to leave her behind, and accepted there may be a few tears shed (by me).  After all, I had read and heard so much about Empty Nest Syndrome.  But then I was surprised to feel completely calm and resigned to the whole process.  Everything just is what it is. And maybe there was a sense of quiet relief on our part.  We'd done our bit.  After all, that's what us parents aspire to........ creating independent young adults who can hold their own in the Big Wide World Beyond.
I penned a note to her, which we posted through her ground floor open window as she skipped off with the girl across the corridor, to some newbie's meeting. The note wished her well, and offered to be but a call or text away.

I half expected a call that night, when the excitement had worn off, in the quiet moments of darkness.  Nothing.  I emailed her a note of support each day for the next 3 days.  Hoping she was having a ball.  Nada.  Nothing.  No comms from her.  We sent a text to ask her if she was settling in okay.  Again, nothing in return.  So on the 4th day, I emailed:  "There will come a day that you will miss us.  Or even remember us."

That night, she sent a one lined response.  Something about her being very busy.  Lots of social activities.  Classes due to start next week!

Dahlia in sunlight
As always, with my daughter, her issues in life are all surrounding education.  She always has experienced hiccups in this arena.  So, as in her regular patterns of experience, it was 2 weeks before Uni started that she received confirmation of acceptance.  She'd had to transfer from Teacher's College in Bethlehem to Hamilton Waikato University.  The hiccup was due to the fact she had been sick with Glandular fever for 5 weeks last year and had missed some of the assignments - so her marks had been  uploaded as incomplete.  She'd had to do some last minute catch up assignments and was patiently awaiting the results.  So with 2 weeks notification, all stations were-a-go!  We had to compile a list of items to pack - after nutting out what she'd need to take with her, I went online to find a suggested packing list for residence or boarding school.  After all, you can find just about anything online these days.  But search after search, trying to change the words of the search, wielded very little in packing guidelines.

So we compiled our own fairly extensive list for anyone ever needing to pack their child off to an away-from-home-accommodation.  Can be easily tweaked for a boy.
Residential Accommodation Packing Guide:

  • Undies
  • Socks
  • Long pants 2
  • Shorts 2
  • Dresses/skirts 2 each
  • Evening wear 2
  • Warm Jackets 2
  • Sun hat and warm beanie
  • Handbag
  • Bag for laptop
  • Backpack for classes
  • Shoes 4 prs casual, 2 prs evening,1 pr jandals
  • Long sleeve tops 3
  • T-shirts 5
  • Jersey/Cardigan 2
  • Bras 2-3
  • Hangers 6
  • Jewellery
  • Belt
  • Duvet and Cover
  • Pillow and Cover
  • Sheets 2 sets
  • Towels 2 hand and bath
  • Bucket 
  • Torch
  • Drink bottle
  • Mug, Coffee Plunger and assortment teas, coffee, sugar, powdered milk
  • Drinking glasses
  • Sunglasses
  • Raincoat and/or Umbrella
  • Toiletries
  • Hairbrush
  • Nailbrush
  • Nail clippers and tweezers
  • Dish-washing liquid and sponge
  • Laundry powder
  • Hairdryer
  • Sanitary wear
  • Cotton buds
  • Tissues
  • Set of eating utensils and sharp knife for cutting fruit etc.
  • Nibbles
  • Plastic food containers
  • Stationary
  • Music- ipod or similar
  • Multi-plug
  • Possibly desk lamp if none available in res room
  • Rug and bed cushions to create a homely feel
  • Familiar posters

On our return home from Hamilton, we had a few photo opps.  

Artist's Inspiration

Field of Sunflowers
A quaint church in the middle of nowhere:  The Anglican Parish of St Mary's, Gordonton, built in 1934

Church Detail
We even stopped at another roadside attraction: Raw milk sold at the farmer's gate, via a  milk vending  machine.  I had read about one in the OrganicNZ, so was really excited to check it out!  Fascinating stuff!  Farmers are not tied into ball-busting contracts with Big Dairy Company Giants.
Unassuming little building houses an entire dairy farm's supply of milk!
No middle men!  $2.50 per litre.  Farmer is paid a decent and fair price.

Filling my drink bottles with ice-cold fresh, raw milk!
This machine costs in the region of $65 000!
There is a glass liter bottle vending machine too for repeat customers.
The nest is now empty of fledglings.  I thought I would have heaps of time on my hands but we seem to have been busier than usual -garden, sustainable home and garden open day, romantic dates with my man, social commitments etc.  Our daughter came home last weekend.  For one night only.  It was really only to fetch her little car and then she was zooting off again so that she wouldn't miss out on Saturday evening's social clubbing night.  When I asked if she could maybe stay another night, she replied that she had already "sacrificed" her Friday night to come home.  Hmmf!  I should remind her of all we've sacrificed over the last nearly-19 years.  I'll start compiling a new list!  Watch this space...........

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Local Eco-tourism: Kauri Point

A glimpse of the jetty
A foray into local tourism turned up a gem and rotten tomato experience.  The gem was this pristine jetty leading into the bay at Kauri Point, with stunningly beautiful  panorama and serene fishermen surrounded by a sentry line of sea birds.  The rotten tomato bit was that the walk around the coastline was totally eroded with massive earth slips, and an encounter with one very irate and grumpy fisherman.

The jetty stretches way into the bay.

The grumpy fisherman

Skinny-dipping boughs sigh into the water

Looking back toward Katikati and the Kaimais

Sentry duty seagulls stand guard while fisher-folk fish sustainably for their kaimoana (seafood)
We tried to be mindful of the fishermen, by walking very slowly and quietly along the seemingly endless jetty, so as not to scare the fish.  Quite respectful.  I took my pictures, mindful of not aiming too directly at the fishermen.  Trying hard not to be exploitative.  One lone Indian-looking fisherman was halfway along the jetty, away from the other two further up the jetty, pulling up a fishing net, with a medium sized fish in it.  We watched.  Quietly.  Then the fatal mistake.  My friendly husband, who is drawn to anything Indian, made the fatal error of asking the fisheman if he was from India.  What emitted from the guy was a barrage of verbal abuse, accusing Mike of being racist.  He declared that he was from New Zealand, and that his ancestors came from Saudi Arabia.  He said his Maori friends would have beaten Mike up for such a racist assumption.  Ooops!  Why was he so angry?  Has the question of his ethnicity come up before?  I have had people ask me if I was from A) Switzerland b)Holland c) Germany d) South Africa, based on my accent.  I have found it all quite amusing.  But then I guess my skin is white.  Perhaps I have not had to endure racism based on skin colour.  Only accent.  Lesson learned.  Don't ever assume you might know where someone is from.  Period.

Patience.  Dreaming of Fishy Rewards.
The rest of our expose' into Kauri Point was pleasant enough.  The water access and jetty is quite simply, breath-taking.  Just go and experience the beauty of it all.
Bird yoga.  Standing on one foot.

White-fronted Terns with their razor sharp beaks for diving into the water to catch their prey

The minority pair of Terns stand apart from the gulls.
Watch out for fishermen though.  They can be territorial and grumpy.  Tread carefully.  Never start a conversation.
Red-billed Gull.  "Fish and Chips for lunch?"